From the first looping of the patinaed sample on Foreign Air‘s latest single “Lying”, you might be wondering what to expect – that is, until the track opens up to reveal a deeply woven web of rich guitars and grooves. That same feeling of uncertainty crept over me when I first saw a photo of the duo in a grey room containing an old arcade game, half-clad in a clear poncho.
As it turned out, my conversation with Jesse and Jacob bared just as much intrigue as their music does. We got a great insight into their thoughts on songwriting, politics in music, and life on the road, and figured we might as well share those insights with you… Enjoy.
Interview & introduction by Jon.
Also, the song reminds me of the cruelty you can find in children […] It’s that non-sharing ego that begins at a young age.
Starting right off with your guys’ new single, “Lying” – the juxtaposition between that vintage, dusty blues sample and some of the really wide and full production in this one makes for a really interesting blend of aesthetics. What motivates you guys to experiment with picking bits like that out of the past to combine with such a modern alt. rock sound that people might not usually expect to hear samples in?
Jesse: In terms of song creation, the beginning is always small but the most important. It dictates the original intent and you can always go back to it if you lose yourself along the way. Sometimes its a drum beat, a vocal melody, the way a synth chord makes you feel, or a record chop. I must say this about sampling from vinyl. A record is work of art already and you have to make sure that a single sample isn’t doing all the heavy lifting in your song. You have to manipulate it enough that it becomes something new. With the opening riff for Lying, I used a guitar sample from a record and played it like an instrument on a keyboard. I don’t think anyone will ever know where that sound came from, its so mangled haha. Once we had that riff going we build the rest of the song around it following our instincts.
Diving into the theme of “Lying” – the lyrics deal with dishonesty and cruelty as an insight into some of the changing behavior we’ve seen in America since Trump’s election. How did you guys decide to tread down that somewhat contentious path on this tune, and what are some of your guys’ deeper feelings on the subject beyond what’s touched on in the track?
Jesse: I rarely write lyrics before the music. The music is the inspiration for me. Most of the time, I record myself improvising over the music. Then I go back, listen, and move things around and make sense of it all. In a way, its like discovering what’s on my mind. I imagine a lot of singers are probably this way. You trying to navigate what feels natural and not force anything. With that said, It became obvious that there was a narrative in my head about human nature. Politics has always been plagued with this us against them mentality which can lead to some serious cruelty and also loosing focus on important issues. It’s sad to see, especially since so much of us have commonality in the human experience.
Also, the song reminds me of the cruelty you can find in children. It’s that non-sharing ego that begins at a young age. Sometimes people just want to be mean, and it’s for no good reason….other than the joy of keeping to thyself.
Looking even further than this song, how prone is Foreign Air to gravitating toward political messages? Is it something intrinsically tied to the expressive process of songwriting for you guys, or is it more of some steam that needs to get blown off with the social climate in general lately?
Jesse: I don’t think we have any specific political goal or message as Foreign Air. If anything its about bringing people together. Each song is its own universe and can carry its own message or meaning. We try to stay open minded in the song writing process and let things flow naturally.
You guys are gearing up for a co-headlining run with Shaed soon. Have you guys had a chance to play out with them in the past?
Jacob: We played the same stage as Shaed at Firefly Festival in Dover, DE this past summer and got to hang with them for a bit. They are really sweet people and we are really looking forward to touring with them. I think sonically this tour is going to be really interesting. Shaed has a more electronic sound that is very powerful live where as Dizzy has this really cool laid back indie pop vibe. I think Foreign Air fits perfectly in the middle between the two. It’s going to be an exciting tour for sure. Come out !!!
A little more generally, what are your guys’ personal favorite and least favorite parts about the road? Does touring as a duo change the dynamics from what it might be like to tour as a larger band?
Jacob: We tour with a live drummer and a guitarist to help blend some of that raw energy with the more electronic elements of our sound. Jesse also does a lot of vocal looping and sampling during the set which brings another interesting dynamic to the show.
We really enjoy touring. I think it’s easy to fall into the mundane tasks of everyday life… touring breaks up those patterns. Being in a new city every night and meeting new people is really inspiring creatively. I love trying new restaurants and seeking things out that make each city unique.
My least favorite part of touring is staying at hotels. It automatically puts you in this tourist bubble. I also hate waiting around in the lobby to check in. I feel like there should be a better system in place by now where you don’t have to deal with a front desk.
You guys had some real success with your “For The Light” EP last year. What do you think it was about that project that allowed it to gain so much traction with people and open up some cool opportunities, other than the fact that it was straight up catchy and sounded great?
Jacob: When Jesse and I first started working on songs together we weren’t confined to any expectations of what the project needed to sound. We surrounded ourselves with drum samplers and synths and through trying to learn those new instruments we would write songs. There was something very authentic about that process that I think connected with a lot of people.
What’s next on the horizon, release-wise?
Jacob: We plan on releasing our debut album early 2018. Over the next few months we will be releasing a few singles off of the LP.
Finally, where should Sodwee readers head to keep up with all things Foreign Air?
Jacob: Instagram ( @foreign_air ) is the best place to find us. We are always updating the insta story with clips of us recording in our bedrooms or behind the scene tour debauchery or photos of us eating ramen.